Clemson University files lawsuit to challenge ACC's Grant of Rights

Clemson has filed a lawsuit in South Carolina to challenge the Atlantic Coast Conference for the ability to explore membership in other conferences.

Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson University has initiated a lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

This has been an action that has been speculated about for some time. Much of the reporting has been behind paywalls, but that changed recently when Ross Dellinger cited sources that claimed that Clemson had been preparing for legal action. He did not specify a timetable, however.

Clemson has filed the lawsuit in Pickens County in South Carolina, akin to the way Florida State filed its lawsuit in the state of Florida. The university asserts that the ACC Grant of Rights prevents it from exploring its options for membership in other conferences. It also says the members of the ACC are unable to explore alternative revenue-sharing plans that would allow schools like Clemson to earn more revenue from conference television contracts.

Each of these things means that Clemson is unable to maximize its ability to obtain full value for its future media rights.

While it is very early in the process, there are now multiple lawsuits against the ACC coming from their strongest football-playing members. Only one ACC championship in football has been won by a team other than Clemson or FSU since 2011 (Pittsburgh in 2021).

The impetus for these legal actions is the continuing changes to the conferences of the FBS subdivision. The SEC and Big Ten have expanded to include most of the valuable college programs. They have also negotiated a new revenue-sharing model for the College Football Playoff that directs more shares of the money generated by the playoff to those two leagues. The ACC and Big 12 had little choice but to accept smaller shares.

This action by Clemson University has been anticipated by many

There is no information about future destinations for Clemson. Many have speculated that Clemson would not be likely to take legal actions against the ACC unless they were certain they had a landing spot in either the SEC or Big Ten. While the Tigers would be a natural fit in the SEC, they would be the second program from the State of South Carolina. Many have speculated that the SEC would prefer to expand into states where they do not have representation.

While the Big Ten could expand into the southeast to get a foothold in the most fertile recruiting territory in the country, they also favor membership in the Association of American Universities, of which Clemson is not a member.